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Women in Here, Women in There: Changing Roles and Lives of Women Migrants from Turkey in Italy

Gül İnce Beqo

Abstract

Drawing on interviews with families from Turkey living in Northern Italy and a series of observations, this article focuses on the construction of gender roles through migration experiences and men and women’s agency in migration decision-making. Acknowledging the theoretical dichotomy between women being victims or conscious agents in the migratory process, I argue that (1) extended family ties of the country of origin are crucial for comprehending the transformation of gender roles in the migration context and that (2) living away from extended family ties gives women the opportunity to transform the roles attributed to them. Their migration experience seems to give them more possibilities for their needs to be taken into consideration by their husbands in household decision–making. For men, this change is almost never pleasant; in fact, the connotation given to the word 'transformation' is determined by the cultural code that favours the strong gender segmentation. Women like to change while men don't. Such a transformation in family life could also explain the lack of willingness of migrant women to return definitively to Turkey despite all the difficulties faced in Italy.

Keywords

Turkey; migration; Italy; gender; social norms; decision-making power

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